The relatively recent emergence of avian influenza continues to be a source of concern in Minnesota. Today, the House and Senate today both approved $1 million to help the Minnesota Department of Agriculture cover avian influenza-related expenses until after the Legislature’s Easter/Passover break next week.
This is a very serious issue, in part because Minnesota is the nation's leading turkey producer, with approximately 40 million produced annually. As of today, Minnesota has more than 20 avian flu cases reported and it is proving to be challenging to get protocols in place and testing completed in a timely fashion.
This strain of avian flu seems to be more virulent than what we faced in 2015, when nine million birds in Minnesota were killed by the virus or euthanized to slow its spread. This version appears to be impacting more wild birds than before and the cool, wet weather we are experiencing also is not cooperating because those conditions allow avian flu to thrive.
Late last week the governor signed an executive order waiving trucking requirements and relaxing spring road postings as it pertains to hauling emergency equipment used in fighting the outbreak. A ban on poultry sales and exhibitions was also put into effect that will last until at least May 1.
The broad, bipartisan support for this emergency funding was good to see for this initial action as we assess what further steps may be needed. In the meantime, I will continue working with leaders from the Dept. of Ag. and my House colleagues to continue our efforts to stop this wave of avian influenza and assist impacted poultry farmers who are impacted.
For now, we need to remain vigilant in protecting our flocks and taking action as warranted. The Minnesota Board of Animal Health has established a hotline for people to call with avian influenza concerns or questions. The number is 1-833-454-0156.
Also, I would be remiss by not reminding people that poultry products remain safe for human consumption.
On another subject, today I was appointed to a joint House-Senate conference committee that will work to come to agreement on a $10 million drought relief package for farmers. Differing versions of the bill were passed in both chambers, but they contain sizeable differences which must be worked out. The biggest is House language giving the DNR an additional $13 million to replant trees and do other drought mitigation work. There is no such language in the Senate version.